I have a confession to make.
Here it is, 2018, already. Almost three years since our family died. As I look back and think about the first few days, weeks, months and the years that have come and gone, I see so many things that have changed that I quite honestly never thought would.
But, here is my confession. I finally went to a grief counselor! Last December, 2017. Two and a half years later I found I was still struggling with dreams and thoughts that I didn’t want to deal with anymore. Yes, I prayed about it and told Jesus I needed healing in this area of my life, but after all this time, I decided I needed help. This is okay because the grieving process doesn’t have a time limit. Nor does it go in any sort of “order.” I am very thankful that Jesus led me to a Christian counselor! We pray before and after each session and he would show me Bible verses that would help me through some very difficult talks we had. I saw Jesus in this man.
My counselor and I talked about the night our family died and the thoughts and dreams that still haunted me. A few weeks went by and I realized I was finally letting go. The night I realized something was changing for me was such a “wow” moment.
I was at home, sitting with my husband, reading a little pamphlet about grieving at its early stages. As I was reading, I felt very sad because reading it conjured up all the emotions I felt and the pain I went through when our family died. To make it worse, a song came on the radio that we sang at the memorial service; “Lord, I Need You”. Oh, my goodness! The fled gates flew open and I started crying so hard.
When the tears let up I reflected on the past two and a half years. And suddenly a thought came to me. “I can breathe! I turned a corner! When did that happen?”
I started thinking about a friend of mine that I had met at a women’s retreat at our church a little over two years previously. We hit it off and became fast friends.
Easter Sunday the following year came early. As my husband, daughter, and I came to the doors of the church, I saw my friend standing at the door. She was greeting people as they came in. I was happy to see her and gave her a hug. I asked her how she was doing. She said she was, “A little better.” I asked her what was wrong and she told me her son had committed suicide two weeks earlier! I was in shock! I couldn’t believe she was actually in church. Let alone a greeter! As the service started and we were singing, I kept glancing over at her. There she was with her husband and their other son. I had often seen her two boys sitting together with her and her husband. I thought what a nice family they were. Now, as I glanced their way and saw only one son I wondered how in the world were they all standing there? My heart just broke for them.
A few weeks later, I invited her to a women’s retreat. It was a Friday evening and all-day Saturday. It was very uplifting and my friend told me she was so glad I had invited her. I was so thankful she could come. Still, I was amazed at how she was carrying on with life after loosing her son. My heart just ached for her. I couldn’t imagine losing my son! I thought about my Russell and how grateful he was my son. I couldn’t wait until I saw him next to give him a big hug.
As the weeks went by my friend and I got together as often as we could.
Then our “unthinkable” happened just three months later. Our son and his family died!
So, as I sat on the couch reliving that horrible day and the weeks and months that followed I suddenly thought, “Joanne! Look at you! Look how far you have come! How the heck have you done it? How have you come so far in your healing process?!” I felt like I was outside myself looking in and I couldn’t believe the healing that had taken place. It was like I was watching a movie of the last two and a half years, reliving those horrible first days, weeks and months. I felt so sad as I was “looking in.” Then I saw all that has transpired since then and I couldn’t believe I was still standing. Still living and enjoying life! We found our “new normal.” I hated that term the first time I heard it. I remember saying, “Nothing will ever be normal again!”
Of course, I still have my days, but for the most part, I “made it!” A grieving such as this will never “be done.” I will never be the same. Sometimes I still have grief bursts. But by the grace of God and His mercy and peace, I am still “living.”
“Remember Your Word to Your servant, for You have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this; Your promise preserves my life. (Psalm 119: 49-50 NIV)